If you have a fair amount of time on a regular basis, I'd just rake over the surface and throw grass-seed over it. Then you just have to weed out everything that isn't grass as it appears. You won't end up with quite as even a result as turf, specially as there will be other clumpy types of grass seed already in the soil. But it's way cheaper than turf and you'll end up with a practical lawn for DC to play on.
No you couldn't turf it over as it is, it's baked dry like a brick, can barely get a fork in, so it needs really working over, but in this weather it's virtually impossible. I've even tried soaking it with the hose for 30 min but the water pools on top it's so hard.
Trouble with grass seed is that my toddler is out there all the time running like a looney so he'd probably crush and kick up any grass seedlings. I thought at least with turf we could avoid walking on it and maybe his little footsteps wouldn't damage the turf too much.
Good suggestion with the bark stuff but we really would like grass eventually (plus half the garden is covered in pea gravel so we'd end up with all the bark mixed in with the gravel on both areas) and I don't think we can afford it anyway. Turfing it would probably cost a maximum of £45 but I just can't afford it.
Is that weed supressing stuff any good? I suspect ds might rip it as he ran about.
I've only bought it in narrow rolls, which would have a lot of loose edges to trip DS up. But if you can get wider sheets that might work better, though you'd have to put stones or something round the edge to keep it down, which could trip him too...
can you chuck some heavy duty grass seed down this weekend, not sure where you are but theres a fair bit of rain coming in over the uk. If your toddler doesn't play on it too much for a day or so the rain should get the seeds going and pep it up for the summer.
The weed supressing sheets wouldn't stand up to a toddler playing on them. It would get all rucked up I think.
I would imagine that the weed suppressing fabric would cost as much as the turf if you don't have any already.
Do you have lots of perennial weeds, or just annual ones? If it's mostly annual stuff then I'd put seed down once it's rained and you have dug it a wee bit - once you start mowing it the annual weeds should give up the ghost.
Thanks for your advice. Maybe you're right about sticking some grass seed in. It couldn't be worse than letting the weeds take over as they are doing now. But I'll still have to dig it over and I'm not sure if it's actually possible right now, I think I'll need a road drill rather than a garden fork! It'd help if my dp would do some digging but he's so uninterested in the garden (even though I want the lawn for ds, not me!)
midnightexpress, I don't know as much about the weeds as the flowers so I'm not sure whether they're perennials or annuals. I can identify buttercups, dandelions, dock leaves and nettles there, plus a prickly one, oh and bindwind! but I don't know what the others are. I'll go and google.
I suggest that you weedkill the weeds - will help the seed grow. Make sure you use something that neutralises on contact with the soil.
Re digging - I know your pain. I can only do any proper gardening in my front garden for about 2 weeks a year - I have to judge between the 'so wet that you sink and get clogged up in the clay' and 'dried hard as a brick and break the fork'. What happens after the pooled water goes? you might need to soak small areas and leave for 24 hrs and then have a try - and this way it would be a bit more manageable?
James... can't be that bad then - I literally CANNOT get a fork into mine when its dry - I've broken 3 normal garden forks so far. Really need a pickaxe instead. I don't know how the plants survive - but they look quite happy really!
Thanks trixie but I'm down near Wales (I'm sure it'd be snapped up on freecycle though)
Mistlethrush, I'm hoping I won't need a pickaxe! Yeah I wonder how weeds manage to grow quite successfully in utterly baked dry clay? Some of them looked more robust than my pampered plants in their beds!